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Route 66: The Complete Series

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Route 66: The Complete Series
Acorn


Route 66 didn’t fit into any existing genre—it wasn’t an anthology program of independent episodes, like Alfred Hitchcock Presents or The Twilight Zone, nor was it a conventional drama with a large ongoing cast, like Gunsmoke or Perry Mason. Instead, each week Route 66 offered a new story, but it was centered around the two recurring characters of Tod and Buz as they traveled across America (often far from the real Route 66, but who’s counting?).


There’s so much to enjoy in this series, but first and foremost is the fact that all the episodes were shot on location, which was quite unusual for television at the time. This means that the Route 66 episodes present a time capsule of America when local customs were far more distinctive than they are today, and it’s great fun just to see what Grand Isle, Louisiana, or Philadelphia, or the Glen Canyon Dam looked like 50 years ago.


Another great pleasure is the quality of acting from the supporting characters, both from veterans like Peter Lorre, Lew Ayres, and Everett Sloane and from young up-and-comers including Ed Asner, Robert Redford, and Suzanne Pleshette. A third is the quality of the scripts and the number of serious issues they tackled, from racism to drug abuse to juvenile delinquency. Silliphant, who wrote many of the episodes, is justly famous for infusing a poetic quality into the dialogue, and many episodes include a monologue which, while perhaps a bit too plummy for the character and the context, bring a heightened sensibility not often seen on broadcast television. Sarah Boslaugh


 

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Hard Core Logo: All Access Edition (Blu-ray)

Director: Bruce McDonald

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Hard Core Logo: All Access Edition (Blu-ray)
Video Services Corp


Reviewing a film like Hard Core Logo (1996), particularly in conjunction with its belated sequel, Hard Core Logo 2 (2010), poses a special challenge, one brought into sharp relief by the new Blu-ray edition of the former which includes the latter.


Hard Core Logo contains a surprise, a moment of shock, that strikes me, both as an individual critic and as someone who teaches the film, as important to any initial viewing. I think that this moment has value not because of plot reasons, akin to learning that Verbal Kent is Keyser Soze, but because it’s a moment about character, one that will influence how you understand the nature and motivations of, particularly, main character, Joe Dick (Hugh Dillon) (Bruce McDonald’s film is, in any case, essentially plotless).


Teaching the film, I have observed that students either love Hard Core Logo or they hate it. The surprise is arguably more meaningful to those who love the movie, but even the haters have different reactions. If the reveal were simply about the machinery of the story, I’d be less concerned with how to approach the film. The fact that the unexpected in Hard Core Logo is about affect and emotion, rather than a particular, traceable consequence to the reading of plot, is what leaves me feeling circumspect about openly discussing the film and its successor. Shaun Huston


 

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Jaws (Blu-ray)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary

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Jaws (Blu-ray)
Universal

The blockbuster granddaddy of them all has finally made it onto Blu-ray, and the results reaffirm more than just this movie’s place in commercial cinematic history. First off, this is one amazing motion picture experience, a flawlessly crafted thriller with expert performances and an honorable Hitchcockian turn by the novice director behind the lens. More importantly, it hasn’t aged. As time has ticked by and films have found more and more obvious ways to jolt viewers out of their chairs, Spielberg delivers the shivers with nothing more than a premise, his precise work behind the lens, and the phobic universality of his monster. Just like the Master did with showers and Psycho, the young gun achieved with a malfunctioning shark and a boatload of disbelief suspension. While he would go on to win every major award his industry has to offer, Spielberg deserves a special place in the artform’s Hall of Fame for this fantastic popcorn powerhouse. A true classic given an equally amazing transfer and treatment. Bill Gibron


 

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Margaret (Blu-ray)

Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Cast: Anna Paquin, J. Smith Cameron, Jeannie Berlin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick, Kieran Culkin, Jean Reno, Rosemarie DeWitt

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Margaret (Blu-ray)
Fox

Writer-director Kenneth Longeran’s long-awaited follow-up to his acclaimed 2000 debut You Can Count on Me had a notoriously troubled gestation. Filmed in 2005, a serious of vicious legal and artistic battles over its financing and editing kept it sitting on the shelf for more than half a decade. A truncated version was shown briefly in a small number of cinemas in 2011, but the 2012 DVD release of Longeran’s three-hour cut is the first time the full, complete version has been seen, and it’s nothing short of a masterpiece. Featuring Anna Paquin in the lead role and a uniformly outstanding ensemble that includes Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick, Mark Ruffalo, and Allison Janney, Longeran’s opus is a superbly observed drama where the lives, desires, and disappointments of everyday people intersect and collide with an almost Tolstoyan scope. The poetry and humanity of Margaret‘s characters as they struggle to deal with the unfathomable world around them are almost overwhelming at times. But as tumultuous a development as Margaret may have had, with the release of this complete version we can finally confirm that it was worth every second of the wait. Pat Kewley


 

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The Qatsi Trilogy

Director: Godfrey Reggio

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The Qatsi Trilogy
The Criterion Collection


Since the debut of its first entry came in 1982, the documentary films in Godfrey Reggio’s groundbreaking Qatsi trilogy (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi) created a wholly new way of using film art as a means of conveying ideas. Solely relying on music, images, and montage, Reggio’s films found a new language of cinematic expression. With hypnotic original scores by Philip Glass and astonishing footage from around the world captured by cinematographer Ron Fricke, Reggio’s films remain unprecedented in the way that they use the medium of film as a total sensory experience. Combining breathtaking images from every corner of the globe—from Times Square to the most remote jungles and deserts—each film wrestles with complex philosophical issues surrounding man’s relationship to himself and the natural world. Finally available together as a deluxe three-disc set from Criterion, The Qatsi Trilogy is a dazzling cinematic journey. Pat Kewley


 

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David Lean Directs Noël Coward

Director: David Lean
Cast: Noël Coward, Bernard Miles, John Mills, Celia Johnson, Kay Walsh, Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings, Trevor Howard

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David Lean Directs Noël Coward
The Criterion Collection


A neophyte filmmaker created some of the most memorable movies of all time under the tutelage of a notorious, and controversial, playwright. A young David Lean was practically handpicked by the iconic Noel Coward to turn some of his best plays into movies, it seems that this collaboration was a match made in heaven given that the results include Brief Encounter and Blithe Spirit. All of the movies in this set explore post WWII England directly This Happy Breed or indirectly, for what is Blithe Spirit if not a lament for the dead disguised as a spooky romantic comedy? The films have been restored by the magicians at The Criterion Collection and look absolutely ravishing. This boxset includes a myriad of vintage documentaries and featurettes, the most fascinating being David Lean: A Self Portrait in which the director provides audiences with insight about his process right after the peak of his career. Jose Solis


 

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Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Blu-ray)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, Teresa Wright, Kim Novak, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Tippi Hedren, Paul Newman, Julie Andrews, Eva Marie Saint

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Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Blu-ray)
Universal


For a while it seemed as if Universal would never upgrade their marvelous Hitchcock DVD boxset to Blu-ray, especially given how North by Northwest had been released by Warner Bros. and non-Criterion versions of his earlier Hollywood movies had started appearing in the market. Then, it happened and we all rejoiced in the announcement that all the movies featured in the original set—Northwest included—would be appearing on a massive Blu-ray collection. The set was delayed for a month, while some discs were corrected and the truth is the wait was more than worth it. Underrated classics like The Trouble with Harry and Marnie look magnificent and the set contains hours of bonus features and documentaries. This might’ve been the most important HD release of 2012. Jose Solis


 

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The Trilogy of Life (Blu-ray)

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Cast: Ninetto Davoli, Franco Citti, Hugh Griffith, Laura Betti, Franco Merli, Jovan Jovanovic

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The Trilogy of Life (Blu-ray)
The Criterion Collection


Pier Paolo Pasolini’s stunning collection of erotic tales was unavailable in our continent for decades, with DVD prices going as high as $300 for what were pretty much bare-bones bootleg versions. Leave it to the great folks of Criterion to give these underrated masterpieces their special kind of treatment, meaning they have been meticulously restored and received high definition transfers. This set is a true marvel, with everything from the packaging to the menus revealing a true understanding of the themes Pasolini wanted to encompass when he made his movies. Combining humor, sensuality, satire and a touching humanism that vanished with the director’s death, this is one trilogy cinephiles should be paying much more attention to. Jose Solis


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